Puzo’s saga of New York crime family headed by Vito Corleone is synonymous with the whole genre of mafia fiction. The book and its 1972 film adaptation introduced the world to the diaspora of the Sicilian mafia and introduced into mass culture the character of the mob boss, the ideal-type gangster, the world of organized crime in twentieth century New York.
The novel’s central character is Vito’s son, Mikey, caught between his future as successor to his father in the business of the underworld and his desire for a marriage and family life that is typically American. The personal dilemma unfolds against the backdrop of an intense mob war between the Corleone’s and four other major New York syndicates. Violence, family drama and all the ideal-type mafia activities from gambling and extortion to political manipulation and trade union control – The Godfather has it all. A thoroughly fictional account, the book does indeed draw heavily on mob history and the real-life dramas of the 5 biggest New York mafia families. Together, that combination of real history and intensely-dramatic storytelling made the New York mob a staple of popular culture and defined forever the way we think and feel about organized crime.